I was alone. There was no real place to go, no real thing to do. Aimlessly I walked; My head heavy, my mouth motionless and my hands hidden. I wanted detachment — isolation — yet the thought of loneliness sent aches to my fumbling mind. I was desperate to find security.
Spring break had passed and marked the final stretch for graduation. I was ready. Months of rhetorical analysis and Pythagorean’s theorem and photosynthesis and Henry David Thoreau and derivatives and entropy all to receive a nicely printed document with my full name in fancy letters. What seemed like an eternity that started back when they enticed you to come to school with “the sacred time of napping” was finally, ever slowly, ending. And of “slowly,” I mean despondently hitting your head against the locker to pass the time. I was definitely ready.
Regardless of the proximity of our release, our teachers kept the ever-drowning sea of work flowing, seemingly attempting to dissolve the “senior-itis” (laziness, essentially) out of all of us. In no time, the road to the finish line seemed endless.
Quickly, the sea enveloped my body, tossing me in the rough, frigid water of anxiety, uncertainty and sleep deprivation. This was my senior year, my final days of high school that were meant to be a smooth coast out. Yet, I was stuck in a textbook trying to figure out the improper integral of an argumentative essay during thermodynamic equilibrium. I felt alone.
I was in desperate need of detachment. My mind was constantly boggled with stress and temptations, deteriorating me from the inside. I did not know what to do. I did not know where to go. I would separate myself from friends and walk aimlessly around campus in any free time I could manage. Eventually, my constant perambulating sent me to the heart of my school: the church.
Those wooden pews would lay empty as the light through the stained glass lightly touched the stone of the columns and floor, keeping the great building from darkness. I’d silently choose a row and carefully take a seat, as if to avoid disturbing another person. In solitude I sat where, after a prayer, I would enjoy the tranquility and the subtle sound of the baptismal font. The sense of drowning, however, kept my mind impatiently waiting for an answer.
A couple of minutes later, my thoughts were interrupted by a group of figures cloaked in black vestments gathered in organized wooden stalls behind the altar. Monks were gathering for their noon prayer. From the distance, I listen.
In the middle of their prayer, my head began to wander: these men devote their lives completely to God. How can that be humanly possible? These men were once my age, having once experienced struggles similar and greater pains than mine. Each day they strive to reach the God Zeal of Monks, as stated in Benedict’s rule. In summary, it sets a standard for monks to live: a way to set themselves from evil.
They combat problems and temptations daily, just like I did, but instead of me sitting there, avoiding them, they take them on, no matter the strain.
In life, in relationships, in high school, there will be waves of challenges and choices that submerge you in gallons of problems and dreary possibilities. But under water, there can only be two things to do: let the waves wash you away or swim up and reach the rich air. Anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity may try to fill our lungs, but like men and women who dedicate themselves to God, we to can escape the clutches of the sea and breathe once again.
We humans are far from perfect, but by emulating the way in which monks live, we to can fight against the current and resurface, regardless of how hard we hit our heads against the lockers.
Apolo Castillo Jr. graduated from Subiaco Academy and will attend the University of Tulsa in the fall. He attends St. Boniface Church in Fort Smith.
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